Taking comfort in sporting success

Death seems to naturally prompt reflection. Most obviously for the family and loved ones of the deceased but also by those whose lives have been touched by the departed. There’s been too much of it in these parts. Forgive me while I lament awhile.
It seems to be the case in this locality these things happen in waves. Recently, there have been some which affected your columnist profoundly. The passing of Mrs Mary Coogan (nee Yourell) marked the end of an era in the life and history of Dunboyne. The link between the Boylan and Yourell families goes back generations – many will know of the bond I was blessed to share with Mary’s brother, the late Tom. Her passing marks the closing of a chapter in my life and the life of Dunboyne.

Dick Manning was another family friend who recently passed on. Dick was a regular visitor to our home for many years, as were we to his. A fine hurler and footballer, he was a member of the Dunboyne teams that won consecutive Minor Hurling Championships in 1958 and ’59. Teams looked after by my late uncle Jimmy in conjunction with the late Paddy McIntyre and the late George Gilsenan.

Mention of minor teams recalls the late Brian Reilly. A former Meath minor football selector, Brian was also a mentor in our club’s two Senior Football Championship successes of 1998 and 2005. Furthermore, he shaped the careers of generations of our players. Including with a very talented U-15 team in 1996 with which I was proud and honoured to help out. From a personal perspective, our shared interests were many and varied, from GAA to horse racing to politics. I will miss him deeply.

The common thread between all three sadly departed was a strong GAA connection. Thus, it was poignantly fitting the considerable success was visited up the club in the midst of such grief and sadness. For myself, it was – yet again – a case of taking comfort in sporting success in times of great upset.

Top billing must of course go to the victory of the Meath U-21 hurlers in the All Ireland B Final against Mayo. Having six All Ireland medals come home to the club is slightly unquantifiable. Now add in that – although defeated – Meath also contested the All Ireland MHC B Final (with three Dunboyne players aboard) and it bodes well for the hurling future of club and county.

Indeed, on a broader scale, it underlines the progress that has been and continues to be made with hurling in the county. Contesting three (or should that be four?!) All Ireland finals – and winning three thereof – in the one season isn’t to be sneezed at. It’s also known that extensive and bountiful work is also ongoing with underage football teams and that, along with other well heralded developments, imbues one with much hope going forward.

Often, the wheels of life have an apt way of turning. When Tom Yourell went to the football field above in 2005, it was entirely fitting that the club’s juvenile players were to the forefront of the guard of honour at his funeral as ‘Tom’s Field’ was the home of underage activity within the club for so long.

So, it was equally fitting that the club’s Minor footballers were chief among those who accompanied Brian Reilly’s remains on the evening of the removal. It was that age group and upwards with which the deceased was most linked and indeed those present were the last group with which he was involved. How movingly fitting it would be if either they or some of our adult teams were to attain silverware before year end.

Mention was afforded earlier to the fondness Brian and I shared for horse racing. Cheeky Harry and Harry Hussyan carrying his silks enabled us to enjoy some great days together. Now, the time surrounding the second harvest of autumnal gold in Croke Park is always a time of highly mixed emotions.

On one hand, it closes a chapter of the sporting year, while on the other there’s still plenty to enthuse about. National Hunt will always be the preferred form of turf war. That said, some special connections with Flat operations keeps a finger on the pulse there too. Again, it’s worth remembering that all success needs perspective.

Pride abounded at seeing Padraig Beggy involved in a thrilling finish during Champions Weekend aboard an Aidan O’Brien trained steed in the famed Coolmore silks. And though luckless on the occasion in question, it was a timely reminder that the Dunboyne rider is as good as there’s out there if afforded the opportunities.

Tony Martin’s adeptness scarcely needs further franking, but it got it all the same as the Moynalvey handler’s inmates Quick Jack and Heartbreak City led home 1-2 finishes in recent big flat handicaps. Martin and many more locals are likely to be to the fore as the next phase of the sporting year kicks in. All of which will be observed in an air of poignancy.

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